WHITEWASHIING NORTH VIETNAMESE CRIMES
by Mike Benge
Whitewashing North Vietnamese crimes
I take umbrage with Georgie Anne Geyer's remarks about Vietnam in her Commentary piece, "Press under attack" (Thursday). Ms. Geyer claims, "Ironically, in Vietnam, the Geneva Accords were generally observed, not only by the North Vietnamese 'regulars' but also by the Viet Cong." Miss Geyer reflects "There was a Brigadoon time in war coverage, when many sides tried to obey the Geneva Accords. The accords, intended to regularize and civilize warfare, tried to assure that odd people on the battlefield, such as journalists and humanitarian workers, would be considered 'noncombatants.' Under this designation, we were, if captured, supposed to be exchanged to our home countries and spared."
Evidently Miss Geyer was in Jane Fonda's Vietnam, while I was in the real Vietnam. International Development, a "humanitarian worker." I was captured by the North Vietnamese during the Tet offensive in January 1968 and held for more than five years; 27 months of which was in solitary confinement, one year in a cage in Cambodia and one year in a black box in Hanoi. Soon after my capture, two American missionaries joined me -- a female nurse and a male Bible translator. The male came down with pneumonia, and although they had adequate medicine, when the doctor who diagnosed him was asked what he was prescribing he replied, "Let him die, he is of no value as a hostage." After the woman and I angered the North Vietnamese Army, our food was poisoned, and she died after three days. Fifty-eight of my fellow USAID colleagues and International Voluntary Service humanitarian workers were killed in Vietnam and those portions of Laos occupied by the NVA. Fifty-five civilians survived capture and were released after five years. I believe the Geneva Convention stipulates they are to be released within weeks after their capture. troops overran a well-known American Christian Missionary compound in the Central Highlands, first blowing up the missionaries' houses and then setting up headquarters in the church on the compound in violation of the Geneva Convention. Seven American missionaries and two Montagnard pastors were murdered in cold blood. Three tried to surrender with a white flag and hands in the air, calling out in Vietnamese "We surrender! We surrender!" The NVA then coolly walked over to the bunker where the others had sought shelter and tossed in grenades, blowing them to bits. The NVA captured two female schoolteachers in Laos, tied them to poles inside a grass hut and burned them to death. treated by the NVA, since according to her she spent "... years of covering wars and conflicts." A great many of the POWs released in 1973 from the prisons in Hanoi had been brutally tortured and some who never returned had been murdered in the prisons.
It sounds as if Miss Geyer may have fallen victim to propaganda of Jane Fonda (Hanoi Jane), Sen. John Kerry and the communist Vietnamese about that regime's so-called "humane and lenient treatment." journalists in Vietnam to those in Iraq, perhaps part of the explanation can be attributed to the fact that there's no Caravelle bar in the Green Zone in Iraq; therefore, the journalists in Iraq are doing their very dangerous job and getting their stories where the real fighting is. I was with renowned Vietnam journalist Bernard Fall just before he was killed by a mine blast while out on patrol with the Marines, and he was complaining that too many of the "so-called" news articles were being written at the bar at the Caravelle Hotel (where CBS had its Saigon bureau), not out where the battles were. Mr. Fall also suspected, and was later proven right, that communist infiltrators at some of the major wire services were doctoring news reports to paint American troops in a bad light.
MIKE BENGE, Falls Church